Worldwide demands for goods are rapidly growing. Furthermore, these goods have to be produced and delivered within ever shorter time frames. Therefore efficient and effective production facilities play a key role in modern society.
PM is the section of this department that researches the design of facilities like factories and distribution centers (DCs); in other words the design of large systems. This design also includes the control, from the setting of rough production capacities to the detailed scheduling of jobs. A part of the systems involved is the in-plant transportation subsystem (conveyors, lift trucks, unmanned vehicles (AGVs)), needed to convey goods inside the facilities.
The mission of PM is stated as follows:
Improving the performance of a logistic system from practice by first translating this system into a model which is subsequently used to optimize the setting of the system
This implies among other things:
- determining the types and numbers of machines and equipment
- finding a good layout
- selecting the way of production planning and control and inventory control
- efficient routing of vehicles
- comparing efficient orderpicking strategies (in case of warehouses)
- defining efficient maintenance policies.
Most frequently the systems involved are factories or warehouses, but also e.g. a hospital or a baggage handling system for an airport may be researched. Very often these systems are located inside walls, nevertheless also other parts of the (global) supply chain and even energy networks are topics of study.
Mostly we adopt a quantitative approach (e.g. simulation) to optimize the system.
Sometimes a technical solution (i.e., the design of new hardware) is more appropriate than a PM approach. In that case we do that in cooperation with other researchers. A good example of such a solution in the warehouse area is the automated storage system: the Logistacker.